THIS IS A LONG STUDY! So I've split it into two parts d(a) and d(b).
You will need props: a hat labelled 'CALVIN' and box (with lid) labelled 'GOD'. Also a means of displaying verses.
John 15 v 1,2,6 & 16:
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you.
Pruning is good and produces fruitfulness – we’ll look at that another time. But Jesus says ‘He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit … such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.’
Cutting off and burning is permanent and leaves us with a question mark over our salvation. Some would like to say that this only applies to those who were never true Christians, but that seems too glib an answer. Can we lose our salvation? This is an important question and we will look at that in the study ‘Cutting Off’. But it is inextricably linked with predestination, and we have to look at that first.
Before we start though, we need to know that some of the arguments we will hear are very persuasive, but totally contradictory. Some people find that they can only accept one or the other. Some can accept both, but ‘hold them in tension’.
We will therefore need to keep a very open mind and remember the words of Martin Luther who said (display) ‘Predestination is a mystery, which forbids the unprofitable intrusion of prying minds’.
In order to approach this subject we need to establish some basic facts.
Let’s read Genesis 1:1
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
And verse 31: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Now Genesis 2:1 to 3
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Before we go on it is important that we are prepared to accept that what the bible says is true. If we believe that sin entered through Adam then we have to believe in Adam and Eve. Therefore we have to accept the Garden of Eden. Personally I also accept seven days of creation.
There is a Christian viewpoint called Theistic Evolution which suggests that God used evolution to create the diversity we now have. This contradicts Genesis 1:24-25, and someone suggested that that passage should read: let the earth produce living creatures according to their kinds, and after 387,492,871 attempts God finally made a mouse that worked. And he said it was quite good, but he could probably improve it a bit (Wayne Grudem: Systematic Theology, chapter 15, p277).
(Display or give out copies of the following copied from HERE)
1. God is creator
(Supporting verses: Gen 1v1; Ps 19v1-2; Ps 33v6,9; Is 43v7; Is 45v12; John 1v3; Acts 14v15; Acts 17v24-25; 1 Cor 8v6; Col 1v16; Heb 1v2; Heb 11v3; Rev 4v11; Rev 10v6)
2. God is Eternal
(Supporting verses: Ps 90v2-4; Job 36v26; John 8v58; 2 Pet 3v8; Rev 1v8; 1Sam 2v3; 1John 3v20)
3. God is not part of creation
4. God is active in preserving his creation
(Supporting verses: Job 12v10; Acts 17v25,28; Col 1v17 Heb 1v3; Eph 4v6; Ps 139v13; Ex 4v11; Ps 104v14; Mat 6v26-30; Ps 104v21, 27-30)
So far most Christians would have agreed. But it is here we find Christians diverging.
What do we mean by ‘active in preserving his creation’? (Checking everything is more or less ok, giving us ‘laws of nature’, or forcing his will? Allow discussion)
(3,4,5) Have prepared a printed copy of this next section cut into paragraphs and a box labelled God. As each paragraph is read put the paragraph in the box. Put on hat labelled CALVIN. DON'T RUSH THIS NEXT SECTION!
JOHN CALVIN (Hence Calvinism or Reformed Church) argued that besides ensuring that the Earth continues to obey the ‘Laws of Nature’ which he established, he is actually active in every single thing that happens. You can’t have an all-powerful God unless he’s in total control.
Look at Job 37:6-13
6 He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’
7 So that all men he has made may know his work, he stops every man from his labour.
8 The animals take cover; they remain in their dens.
9 The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds.
10 The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen.
11 He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them.
12 At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth
to do whatever he commands them.
13 He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water his earth and show his love.
He literally feeds the birds: Mat 5v26
He controls every ‘chance’ event: Prov 16v33
He controls Nations: Job 12v23; Ps 22v28; Acts 14v16, 17v26
Nothing happens in the World that is not actually and deliberately planned and carried out by God. Things may appear to happen naturally: grass grows, wind blows, leaves fall, but there is not one minutest detail, no spin of an electron, which is not specifically planned and directed by God.
Amos 3v6, 4v6-13
However, our own decisions are real and we are held accountable for them – but they are at the same time totally decided by God.
It therefore follows that every evil action of man is planned and directed by God, although at the same time man is blamed for it. [2 Sam 12v11-12, 2 Sam 16v20-22], [1 Chron 21v1, 2 Sam 24v1, 10, 12-17]; Isaiah 45v7
This means that the Serpent, Eve, and Adam were also directed by God in order for man to fall, and those who crucified Jesus were also directed by Him in order to bring about our salvation. The Fall was essential to God’s plan – in order to be saved you had to be saved from something.
Everything that happens in the world is the deliberate act of God, whether good and beautiful or foul degrading and evil.
Because God controls everything he also decides before creation who would be saved and who would be eternally condemned.
Look at the Ephesians 1 passage and note verses 4, 5 and11:
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
Since God chooses those who will be saved they can never loose their salvation, whatever they may do. Neither can they resist God’s saving call.
Because since the fall man is inherently evil, it is impossible for man to choose to accept Christ – it has to come from God alone.
If Jesus paid the penalty for all people, no-one would still be guilty – therefore no more punishment could be required of them so they would all be saved. Therefore it is obvious that Jesus only died for those whom God has chosen.
PUT THE LID ON CALVIN’S BOX and take off hat.
This is the end if the first part of this study - but be careful, we will hear opposite arguments next time!